By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Barriers to healthcare exist nationwide. Whether those are obstacle within the healthcare industry or issues individuals place on themselves, it can often produce dire circumstances. However, once those barriers are eliminated on both sides, access to healthcare becomes simpler.
“We need to continue to raise awareness for breast cancer and remove any obstacles women may have to being screened for breast cancer,” said Katherine Rogala, vice president of women’s health at Rochester Regional Health. “We want to make it convenient and as easy as possible for women to make and keep their appointments.”
Through a $4 million multi-year grant from the state, Rochester Regional operates a mobile mammography coach that travels to provide easier access to breast cancer screenings. The custom built coach features two private changing areas, a reception area and state-of-the art 3-D imaging equipment. The program started in August across eight Upstate New York counties, including Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Cayuga, Seneca, Yates, Steuben and Livingston counties.
Among United States women last year, there were an estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. While breast cancer incidence rates are highest in white women, breast cancer death rates are highest in African American women.
Here are five ways the mobile mammography program helps women in need
1. Removing accommodation barriers
Women are busy with work and other commitments. Scheduling a mammography is far from convenient. Women either have to worry about lack of extended weekend hours or figuring out how to make their scheduled appointment around their workday. Oftentimes between the drive to the appointment, sitting in the waiting room and the examination, several hours pass by. And not everyone can afford or has the time to take a half day of work for an appointment so their options remain losing a valuable day worth of income or holding on to their money and possibly sacrificing a needed check-up.
“With our mobile mammography center, instead of taking hours out of your day for an appointment, we can come to a company’s workplace and the whole process from registration to getting back to your desk would take less than 30 minutes,” said Rogala. “If a woman is making minimum wage she may not be able to afford taking time off for a screening.”
2. Removing travel barriers
Even if you have the time to schedule a screening, there remain possible hurdles to get to your appointment. Depending where you live, especially in rural areas, it may not be easy and may take too long to get to a medical campus.
“By taking our mobile mammography center to women where they live, we are addressing some of the challenges of travel and public transportation to getting to their appointment,” said Rogala. “Not every community offers convenient access to care close to home. In Wayne County, a woman might have to travel over 30 miles to get a medical campus and that can be a prohibitive barrier for a screening.”
3. Removing any thoughts of a lesser experience
Sometimes convenience comes at a price. You can’t order gourmet fast food. However, the mobile mammography center is an exception. Bringing healthcare to your doorstep won’t affect the quality of the service.
“The quality of care and level of service is no different in the mobile mammography center than a breast imaging center on a medical campus. We have the same expert team of professionals you would find at any of our breast imaging centers,” said Rogala. “Women are receiving the same overall high quality experience.” Patients receive the results of their screenings between 24 to 48 hours if they sign up for Rochester Regional Health’s patient portal on-line. Otherwise, a woman will receive the results in the mail. Any follow up that is required is done by a phone call.
4. Removing financial barriers
Under the state’s insurance law, health insurers are now required to provide medically necessary coverage for tomosynthesis or 3-D mammography screenings without co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles. The screening is more effective at detecting cancer in dense breast tissue, which is common in women of color. An added benefit of the grant is that women who are not insured or underinsured can receive free mammography screenings.
“We have an established relationship with the New York Cancer Services Program which will cover the cost of a mammogram,” she said. “What we are trying to do is make sure that there are no cost barriers that deter women from getting their mammogram and obtaining follow up care after the screening if needed.”
5. Removing lack of knowledge barriers
While the pink ribbon has become the universal symbol throughout October, women are still dying from breast cancer due to lack of early detection. Medical experts believe it is essential to remain steadfast about education.
“We can’t stop educating women about breast cancer and empowering them to take the best care of themselves,” said Rogala. “The importance of early detection saving lives cannot be understated.”